Nutritional wellness is a challenge for college students

Brock Hulse, News Contributor

Setting good habits while being a young adult at Oregon State is important in order to ensure wellness and success throughout the remainder of one’s life.

Students of all ages will improve the general wellness both now and in the future by setting in place good habits for nutritional, physical, mental and sustainable wellness.

Determining and then implementing the right things in order to achieve nutritional wellness can be very challenging for a young adult who is now living on their own according to Emily Ho, the director of the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health at OSU.

“A lot of students that I see are just not equipped to take care of themselves,” Ho said. “They haven’t gone to a school where they’ve had the classic home ec. programs where they learn how to prepare meals, how to shop for healthy foods, how to store and budget.”

This lack of knowledge regarding how to properly prepare, shop for, store and budget nutritional foods can become even more difficult when combined with the ability to access a large amount of information about food and nutrition, Ho said.

“It’s hard for the average person to be able to sift through the fads versus the right information,” Ho said. “I don’t know of many other fields where you can say you’re a nutrition expert without having any background. You can have a blog and claim you’re a nutrition expert and people will listen to you.”

In order to ensure that someone is finding the right information it is important for them to know what a good resource is, Ho said. If people are getting most of their information from websites or blogs, looking at the credentials of the individuals and determining whether or not the things that they are reporting are evidence based is a good way to ensure that you are getting the proper information Ho said. Evidence based means evidence that is based on previous research that has shown success rather than anecdotal testimony.

Ho said that there are resources online that students can look at for good healthy recipes that are run by different organizations within the university, like University Housing and Dining Services or the Moore Family Center, with Ho commonly pointing students to websites like

Ho also said that while there is evidence that a plant-based diet has many health benefits, people don’t need to be vegan in order to eat a plant-based diet.

“It means that a majority of your food should come from plants, but it doesn’t mean that to be healthy you have to be vegetarian or vegan,” Ho said. “If you choose to be that, that’s fine. That is a relatively healthy lifestyle, but it’s not necessary to be healthy.”

Ho said making sure that people eat fruits and vegetables is more important than following a specific type of diet if an individual doesn’t have specific dietary needs.

“If you choose to do organic that’s more of a value choice,” Ho said. “I would much rather the whole population just eat more fruits and vegetables rather than worry whether or not they’re organic or not.”

For those living and eating on campus, there are many ways in which students are able to get and eat nutritional foods or maintain certain types of diets such as vegan and vegetarian said Tara Sanders, the assistant director of nutrition and sustainability for UHDS, via email.

One of Sanders responsibilities is working with UHDS’s executive Chef in order to set nutrition menu parameters for the culinary team to follow when developing menus.

One of these nutritional menu parameters is making sure UHDS Dining Services is committed to Menus of Change, an initiative run by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This implements principles such as increasing whole grains and increasing plant-based options to advance healthy and sustainable menus.

Another responsibility held by Sanders is serving as the chair of the Student Wellness Committee, where she facilitates conversations with wellness peers in academic and student affairs.

The task force is charged with developing a framework that encapsulates OSU’s many resources supporting areas of well-being such as spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental and financial wellness, Sanders said via email.

Matt Robinson, an assistant professor of kinesiology at OSU, said via email that using these many resources offered by OSU in order to form healthy habits is an important thing to do.

“Habits can be hard to break and it is good to set daily habits that can be maintained and sustained,” Robinson said via email. “Our bodies can gradually adapt to the demands that we place on them…These changes are gradual and we may not notice on a day-to-day level.”

These gradual changes can become large and difficult to overcome, and over several years it can become difficult to change habits in order to reverse the detriments, Robinson said via email.

“We need to further recognize that exercise does not need to include the gym but a generally active lifestyle with less sitting time,” Robinson said via email. “The health benefits go beyond many classic considerations but include benefits on protection against morbidity, improvements on cognition, immune system and greater flexibility.”


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